Meet Microstock’s Oldest Photographer

The ‘first look’ at the 2010 microstock survey results were recently published, and one of the interesting points was the oldest respondent to the survey was 84 years old.  The survey was anonymous, so there was no way to know who that was, but when Phil made a note of it in the microstock forum, Jack stepped forward as being that 84 year old respondent.  Even as Jack is the oldest of the now 600+ people who answered the survey, I obviously can’t be 100% certain that Jack is the oldest microstock photographer, but if he isn’t the oldest he is most certainly one of the oldest, and until proven otherwise – he is the oldest. 🙂

Jack’s portfolio isn’t filled with glamorous models or gold fish isolated on white shaking hands, it is filled with images he loves shooting. I feel Microstock was ‘made’ for people like Jack, people who shoot and upload simply for the pure enjoyment of it, with sales coming as an added bonus.  Yes, there are those of use who upload purely for profit and to make a living, and microstock is great for that too.  What is great about microstock is how both types of submitters can co-exist and actually need each other to keep the microstock industry healthy… but that’s another post.

Let’s meet Mr. Archibald (aka Smiling Jack)

So, tell me a little about yourself – where are you from?  What was your earlier profession?

dc-3-in-somaliaI live in Kalispell, Mt. USA.  I have lived here for the last 55 yrs with exception of a 9yr period when I took on flying and maintenance assignments in eastern Africa and the Middle East.

Aviation has been both my profession and my passion since I was 5 yrs old. Photography (aerial photography) has been another way to make money flying in 60 x yrs I have acquired 16,000 x hrs doing almost everything you can do with an airplane. My flying has included : fire patrol, game counting, photography, charter and flight instruction.

What camera equipment do you use?

I use a Pentax K10D. My camera before this one was a Pentax 35 mm, so I can use my lens on the digital camera.  Also, Pentax was one of the first digital cameras that could be fired remotely.

How long have you been involved in Microstock Photography and how did you get started?

I first became aware of Microstock in 2007 while doing some research on the internet about aerial photos.  While researching further on microstock agencies , I came across MicrostockGroup and joined then sometime in 2007.  While I didn’t participate much, I sat back and listened and learned a lot (that is a well deserved plug for Tyler and the group members).  It wasn’t until 2008 that I really  started uploading and then only in small amounts. I am still in a learning phase.

Most people I know who are 80 years and older (even 70 yrs+) have very little (if any) computer knowledge, let alone know how to use a digital camera, download and upload files, chat in online forums, and participate in microstock.  Where did you gain your computer knowledge and how do you know so much more than your peers; or am I just biased and ill-informed about the computer knowledge of the 80+ crowd?

I like to say “I was dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age”, I got a lot of help from my grown kids, who thru their professions (accountant and geologist) had become quite proficient on computers. I was somewhere in my 70’s when I got my first computer and it took me 6 months to get it to work.  I used it primarily to write and print lesson plans and course outlines for  flight training. At first to make aerial photo maps required to much ram and memory for desktops and I had to out-source assembly of the maps.  Finally desktops computers got powerful enough that I can now do it all in house. I also took a couple courses at the local community college on Adobe Photoshop.

Mac or PC?

I have a PC.  Mainly because most of my clients are engineers and they tend to use them.

What is your favorite microstock shot?

dc-3-taking-off-in-the-desertI actual have two favorite microstock shots. One is a DC-3, takeoff from airstrip in the Ar Rab’Khalis (empty quarter) in Saudi Arabia and the other is a DC-3 sitting on a dirt strip in Somalia facing a hut make of sticks with a sign on the doorway saying ” International Terminal”. These photos show the “old” DC-3 doing what it has always done best, hauling cargo and people to the far corners of the earth.

Why do you participate in Microstock Photography?

I participate in Microstock Photography to fill in the big gaps in time I have between my main business which is making aerial photo maps and doing aerial photos on assignment.  I was also hoping to even out my cash flow with a steady income from microstock.  I have several advantages that allows me to make money on the low commissons of microstock.  I have owned the airplane I use since 1948 and I am a licensed aircraft mechanic, so I can do most of my own maintenance.  Most of the aerials I take for microstock, I take going to and from other assignment.  I can’t say it has fulfilled all of my goals, but it is a work in progress.

What do you enjoy shooting?

That is simple the earth from the air.  It looks so much cleaner from the air and there is beauty and wonder in even the most barren and desolate places.

Have you enjoyed photography since the ‘film’ age or did you only recently becoming interested in the art?

oil-rig-at-sunriseI got my first camera in 1935. It took photos that were 2.6″ x 1.2″ I don’t even know what make it was. In fact that year I took my first aerial photos.  It was out the window of a DC-2 over the jungles of Panama.

What do you feel is the most exciting or significant invention / change in the last 100 years?

Of course for me, it has to be the invention of the airplane.

Do you have any photography or life advice for us ‘youngins’ :)?

No, I don’t have any photography or life advice because I am still learning.  When I am “old” I will have some.

What is your agency strategy?  Are you exclusive, uploading to the big 4 or to as many microstock sites as you can?

Right now,  I am with Dreamstime, Bigstock and Shutterstock. I plan to submit to a few more once I get my workflow better organized.


Thanks for answering all the questions Smiling Jack, it was great to hear your story.  If you want to buy an aerial photo, check out Smiling Jack’s Dreamstime portfolio here.

[Discuss this post on MicrostockGroup] or leave a comments below.

About The Author:

Tyler Olson works as a microstock photographer who also runs the MicrostockGroup forum and blog. Being so closely involved in the microstock community as a submitter, forum moderator and blogger, Tyler is able to keep updated in the constantly changing microstock marketplace.
Posted on February 25th, 2011 in Editorial | tags: , ,
  • That’s great of you too interview Jack!

  • Great interview Jack & Tyler. Very nice to get an inspirational story behind a name that pops up on the forums every so often with comments that are always both wise and respectful!

  • Etienjones

    Well done to both Tyler and Jack. “When I am “old” I will have some (advice).”. . . . . . . . great, keep smiling and Keep us posted!

  • Jack, your passion is great and motivating. This interview shows that we should do what we love.
    Best wishes, Jack, keep smiling! 🙂

  • I thought I was the oldest at 75. Glad to know there are other old timers doing the same thing!

  • James Benet

    Fantastic interview, you are a true inspiration. I will be more than happy if at my 70s I have half the drive you have now. Happy flying!

  • Atta boy Jack – I hope I can be like you when I’m in my 80s 🙂 My wife already calls me old man, and I’m just a few years away from 30.

  • Great story. At 70 years old I feel like a youngster again.